Henry Grabar is a staff writer for Slate’s Moneybox and a former fellow at CityLab. He lives in New York.
This is why we don't bury people in the center of town.
New Yorkers woke with jellyfish at their doors, but in New Haven, Hurricane Sandy brought a skeleton to the center of town.
Or at least unearthed it.
When local artist Silas Finch saw that the winds had downed a giant tree known as the Lincoln Oak, planted in 1909 on the 100th anniversary of the President's birth, the New Haven Independent reports, he began searching in the massive root bulb for old coins. What he found was a bone, and so he called his friend Robert Greenberg, an artist and urban historian.
Meanwhile, yesterday afternoon, a woman named Katie Carbo also spotted the bones and called the police.
There was thus a convergence of interested people when the cops showed up and determined that there was indeed a skeleton stuck in the dirt beneath the tree. Various interested passersby were there, with a good view of some bones, according to the Yale Daily News. There was Greenberg with a binder full of documents reading local history aloud, some artist friends of Finch's, a handful of homeless people who frequent the area, death investigator Alfredo Camargo, snipping roots and brushing away dirt, and a Yale anthropology research assistant, Gary Aronsen, placing bones in supermarket bags.
Here's Thomas MacMillan, who shared these photos with The Atlantic Cities, writing in the New Haven Independent:
At around 10 p.m., the death investigator sawed off a root that was in the way, then reached in and plucked the skull from the root ball. To the crowd’s chagrin, he didn’t hold it up for all to see. Aronsen, the anthropologist, quickly placed it in a paper Stop & Shop bag. The skull appeared to be fragmented.
This development was not wholly unexpected -- the Green, center of the 1638 Nine Square Plan, was the city's burial ground through the 17th and 18th centuries. In 1821, the headstones were moved to the nearby Grove Street Cemetery, but the bodies remained.
As the Yale Herald points out, it's possible this skeleton could be Benedict Arnold's wife.
All photos courtesy of Thomas MacMillan/New Haven Independent.